The how is not so simple. The moments leading up to goodbye and the first few days after the goodbye are something that I really can't wrap my head around now that I have crossed about 200 days off of the calendar. Staring at 9 months hindered my ability to swallow, to breathe deeply, or to even sleep soundly. Who am I without my husband? Tough question for sure but the answer was even harder to swallow! I didn't know who I was! The TRUTH is hard but very sobering. I was lost. Here is the ugly truth...I lost 10lbs right away...I didn't even know what hunger felt like. My hair fell out and the look of exhaustion and stress was staring back at me every time I looked in the mirror. Can I do this? Can we do this? Why did we do this? Will he be ok? Will he make it home?
I lost a lot of sleep. Yes, I had an infant to care for and an almost 4 year old and although the physical exhaustion was like nothing I have ever felt, I couldn't really sleep. Every time I closed my eyes and drifted off, I was greeted with a different nightmare. Some nights I heard the sobs of my children asking for daddy, other nights I swore I heard that dreaded knock at the door. On several occasions I flew out of bed to check the front door because the nightmare was so real! Some of them were so vivid that I woke up in fear...maybe that really happened? Where am I? What day is this? I had indepth conversations with our friends while they tried to comfort me, yet those conversations only really happened in my sleep. On a few occasions I would get emails that said "you won't hear from me for a while, everything is ok...watch the news".
I wanted to hear from him. The lack of contact scared me. If I could just hear his voice I would know everything was ok. But sometimes the sound of his voice was so telling. He is feeling a ton of guilt and so am I. It was heartbreaking to hear him sound so down but I know that part of my "job" as a military spouse and supportive wife is to do my best to make him feel great about what he is doing and not let him dwell on what he isn't doing at home. There is no doubt that although I carry the responsibility of everything at home, he has it so much harder! I am living our life for the both of us and he is living it through pictures.
I am not 100% certain of much when it comes to the military but I am with out a doubt 100% sure that every person handles a deployment differently and what works for me will not be exactly what works for others but the bottom line is that we have all in some way felt a similar feeling, fear, or stress yet the ways we chose to handle that stress can vary greatly.
I am a doer...when Leif left I grabbed my schedule and booked it as much as possible. I didn't turn down opportunities to go somewhere or do something. I didn't allow myself to make deployment or "solo" parenting my excuse. In fact, the very thought that I could not do something because I had 2 kids with no help was my exact motivation to go and do anything and everything. We did amusement parks, museums, the beach, the pool, 2 eight hour road trips, shopping, parties, cleaning...you name it...we did it! Being busy worked for me but it also wore me down. Eventually I crashed and was told by my doctor that I was headed for an ulcer.
On top of the everyday activities, there was also a ton of mental activity. I stress and worry about my kids, my parenting, the decisions I make, and the future decisions that we have to make. There were many moments where I sat in the floor and cried, many moments where I felt like I had failed as a parent. Moments where I really needed a break and immediately felt guilty for being selfish. I went months without a moment to myself...literally! I didn't even get to use the bathroom alone unless it was for a 3 am potty break before nursing a crying baby...is that privacy? I remember some of the heartbreaking questions from my 4 year old. "Mommy will you be happy again when Daddy gets home?" "Mommy will you still be here when I wake up?" It broken heart and still brings tears toy eyes to think of my 4 year olds fear of abandonment, uncertainty, and worry for his mommy.
Then I ask myself...am I a mom first or am I a wife first? You can't help but feel a disconnect between yourself and your spouse. How do you maintain a relationship through email and short phone calls? When he comes home where will I fit in? Sounds strange, but seriously? I have 2 little boys who miss Daddy terribly and will want his undivided attention. I have a husband who is beyond exhausted and living on an average of 4 hours of sleep for the past 8.5 months. He has his kids, his wife, his family, his friends, his home responsibilities and his job all waiting for him to come home. Yes, there is still a job to be done even when he isn't deployed. He doesn't come home to an 8.5 month vacay. I know I am a priority but the reality of homecoming is that he will be pulled in a million different directions and all I want is to just lock us up in this house and be selfish (with room service)!! Most people in our life won't understand that, they will want a piece of him too...hah who am I kidding, some family members haven't even called once to check on us...or him…yet they will miraculously appear once he is back! Maybe I am not so selfish. Maybe they are the selfish ones?? But others, those who have been there for us, will want to engage in the excitement of him being home...and I want that for them too!
In some ways I blinked and almost 8 months have passed and in other ways it was like I could feel each second tick slowly by. Time apart is a very funny thing...I almost forget what it is like to have him here. I forget about having to accommodate another person, plan using someone else's schedule, and discuss my day verbally with another adult while having dinner. I eat standing up, I come and go a million times a day, and I always know that I am coming home to an empty house, an empty bed, and no other car in the drive way. When my kids are in bed, I clean, workout, and go to bed. I forget what it is like to snuggle, to laugh with my husband, to be silly and to truly be happy...however I do not forget how all of those actions make me feel. I know, now more than ever, the amazing impact that my husband has on me. I will never forget how it feels to laugh uncontrollably with him, how it feels to talk about our deepest thoughts knowing that no judgement is passed, how it feels to get lost in his arms, and how it feels to be incredibly, outwardly, and obviously in love. I am so close to experiencing all of those simple little life moments again and the thought of our "normal" is really how I do it.